We had our own Giro d’Italia for the Over 40’s today! You can forget your Orica GreenEdge, Team Sky or Team BMC, we were all over those guys today!
Last night Steve said, “Let’s have an early night so we can wake up and get out of this place!” so that’s what we did and we hit the road before 9:00am to gladly and speedily pedal far, far away from Camp Feral.
We rode through the city of Verona, navigating some busy Monday commuter traffic, following the I1 cycle route from the Italian Cycle Network. The next 20km were a frustrating string of wrong turns, map failures, non-existent signage and GPS “Davo specials.” Steve was about to hurl the map and GPS under the next passing truck I think, it was becoming that frustrating. We were on a designated cycle route, along the lines of the cycle networks we’ve followed, with their numbers, in other countries, but this one would have signs 10km apart, with no indication of direction at crossroads or paths in between. The map and GPS weren’t behaving either, so it was not a good start. It was also cold with a mighty headwind, so it was hard to raise a smile at times this morning!
Nearing elevenses, we spotted a small pump house beside a river, where we could seek some shelter from the wind. As we sat, Steve took out the laptop, hooked up the GPS and we set about plotting our own route to Vicenza, a halfway point to Venice, that we aimed to reach today.
As we sat, we saw group after group of cycle tourists ride past along the road. They just kept coming. “I wonder if we can catch them?” challenged Steve. The Giro d’Italia for the middle aged, was on! I began naming the teams as they went past. Team Yellow Professional went by first, in their matching fluoro yellow jackets and vests and all the ridgy ridge lycra gear. Soon after came Team Chardonnay, a couple who looked so genteel, sitting nice and upright on their bikes, in their crisp white clothes, the lady with a pastel sweater tied around her waist and they pedalled along so calmly and leisurely, with their perfect panniers, that I thought they looked like they should have a glass of chilled Chardonnay in one hand as they pedalled along. Then came The Motley Crew. This team was a real mixed bag of riders, one lady wore a pair of black and white plaid trousers, a man had on his beige slacks and matching beige polo shirt, others were in sports gear and they were a great range of shapes and ages. Finally came Team Tamworth, the couple who looked like they came straight from the farm singing Country and Western, with the lady in her blue and red checked shirt. Then there was us…the scruffy pair from Team Tassie. The race was on!
With a route now set, we headed back to the road, took a left turn and hit the pedals in earnest to catch the peloton. The road was quite busy, so we were hoping the route would eventually take us along some cycle paths or quieter roads…Oh, what’s this? Up ahead? It’s Team Chardonnay! Can we catch them? Pedal…pedal…gaining…gaining…the pastel is in sight…oh, what are they doing? Team Chardonnay turned left as we turned right! They had deviated from the course! Oh well, they were now out of the race, so we pedalled on.
Then something unexpected happened…a hill! A doozy of a hill! It was steep and it was long and the gears that hadn’t been used for such a long time, were cranked down into action quick smart. We slogged up and up, and that hill just kept on going. I saw a bike path on the other side of the road, Steve had stopped on the road for a breather, but I wanted to get off that road ASAP. I passed Steve, kept climbing until I could see a spot to cross and get to that path, so I whizzed across, happily away from the traffic and waited for Steve to follow. As I waited I thought my heart was going to bounce right out of my chest! It was getting a workout on that hill! When Steve arrived, we took off again, up the path, climbing the seemingly never-ending hill. I got to the top and waited beside a town war memorial and let that beating muscle in my chest calm down a bit.
After that steep climb, we had a long, sweeping downhill. Wheeeeeee!!!! As we wheeled down, the views were delightful and when we got to the bottom, the scenery became just magic. We were in the thick of wine country, with mile after mile of vineyards, workers and trucks coming and going with harvests and in the distance, a castle on the hill. “This is more like it,” said Steve, as we enjoyed the countryside and rolling green hills. It was such a wonderful change from the cities and heaving traffic.
We rode past a vineyard, with a path leading down to the vines and who do we spot? Team Tamworth! They had stopped for a photo opportunity, so we waved and said hello and then we ever so quietly…passed them!
On we rode, through the gorgeous countryside, between and alongside acres of grape vines. We’d been hoping to discover some hidden gems, between the major towns and cities and we found one today. We came upon Soave, a small medieval town, known for its “golden grapes” and wine. We rode under the town archway, hanging with grapes and pedalled up the cobbled street. It was a beautiful town, with the main street lined with small shops, cafes and bakeries, a church and tower at the far end of town and steep, cobbled streets and lane ways. It was so nice to be in a small, village like place, quiet and pretty and full of character.
As we stood at the end of the street, taking some photos, I caught a glimpse of something behind me…Yellow! The Yellow Professionals had caught us! We greeted them and continued looking around. Oh well, we were going to have to do some more chasing in this middle-aged Giro d’Italia!
We decided to continue on our way, so we pedalled back down the cobbled street, and then…what do we see? There to our left? It can’t be…it was…the entire team of Yellow Professionals were sitting in their shades and lycra at a cafe! They had clearly stopped at a refreshment station! This is our chance! We wheeled on, still enjoying the beautiful countryside and came upon another small, quiet town, where we stopped for lunch and to research somewhere to stay. We sat on a bench and enjoyed our own refreshment stop. We began looking for accommodation options and discovered there were no campsites on our route, so opted for a cheap and cheerful hotel on the outskirts of Vicenza. As we sat there, on that bench, what do we see!? The pelaton rode past! There goes Team Tamworth! They had caught us again and passed us! Then…Motley Crew! We hadn’t seen them all day and had wondered where they’d got to, now we could see where they were…passing us!
We packed up our things, jumped on the bikes and pedalled off…up another incline! That’s tough straight after lunch when the legs have cooled down! It was a pretty tough slog into the wind, along busy roads and through roundabout, after roundabout. The roundabouts are particularly tough because I have to be the designated signaller. Steve, with the GPS on his bike, is usually in the lead navigating, so all he has behind him is me. I’m behind, so I have all the traffic behind me, so I have to do all the signalling, riding one handed, in arcs around those roundabouts, with an arm stuck out and doing my darndest to balance! There were a lot of those roundabouts today too!
We rode through a small town, up a small hill and look…look there…in the bakery…Motley Crew! They’d decided to stop at a refreshment station themselves! We have a chance here! We waved and greeted them as we pedalled past. We were edging to the front of the peloton now! Then within a few hundred metres, as we crested a hill to another roundabout, we saw Team Tamworth sitting on a bench! We said hello and laughed at having greeted each other for the second time that day and then we rode on up the hill. That was it…the peloton were behind us! I could hear Phil Liggett’s voice in my head…”It looks like there could be a break away here. The two lead riders from Team Tassie, look like they could be making a strategic move here! It could be a breakaway attempt. Yes! They’re making a move…they’re breaking from the peloton! Have they gone too early though? There’s still a long way to go, but it looks like they’re making their move…yes! We have a breakaway!”
For about the next 20km, we were again on busy roads, with trucks rocketing past and all but scraping our elbows. We took to the footpath as often as we could, to escape the traffic, but we were still in the thick of it most of the time. Then we made it on to a slightly quieter section of road, riding past some more vineyards and then…we hit another milestone. Kilometre 6000 ticked over!
We arrived in Vicenza, found our hotel, parked the bikes in the underground car park and carted all our bags up to our room. Oh, what a nice surprise! The room was the size of two rooms, it had a balcony so we can fire up the Trangia and cook, the hotel was brand new and everything sparkled and it had a pristine marble bathroom! All this for only €15.00 more than Camp Feral! We couldn’t have been happier than if you’d put us on a podium, put a yellow jersey on us, kissed our cheek and handed us a bouquet of flowers! We were winners! We each had a nice hot shower and washed away the day’s hard work and all memories of Camp Feral, that was behind us after 68km of riding. We’ve decided to stay here tomorrow too, to get some housekeeping done. The laundry situation was approaching Code Red and our supplies have dwindled, so we need a decent sized supermarket with some choice, to restock. When we got to our hotel, we discovered we are right next door to a hypermarket and only 950 metres from a laundrette! Sorted! We can now spend time tomorrow getting our chores done.
It was a tough day, but a fun day. We had wind and wrong turns and a mighty hill, but we also had some nice scenery, some lovely little towns, the company of some other touring cyclists and a very nice pit stop at the end of the day. We’ll rest up here and do our housekeeping, before the final push to Venice. We also flew the flag for the over 40’s in our own version of the Giro d’Italia, with some stiff competition from the teams in the peloton! We weren’t presented with a pink or yellow jersey, we didn’t take the King of the Mountain title, but we did get a very nice cuppa on arrival, thanks to the number one member of our support crew…the Trangia stove. So Team Tassie + Trangia, had a good day and crossed the finish line with a smile. For a couple of freewheeling, at times navigationally challenged, windblown and fashionably bereft cyclists from Tasmania, it was a splendid, first class day. Simply champion!